The Association of Market and Social Research Organisations (AMSRO) today announced that the Inquiry into the Performance of the Opinion Polls at the 2019 Australian Federal Election (AMSRO Polling Inquiry) has released an Interim Discussion Paper recommending the implementation of a comprehensive regime of disclosure standards for election polling.
The report follows AMSRO’s decision, along with the Statistical Society of Australia, to conduct a review of election polling in Australia to determine why all the published polls incorrectly called the outcome at last May’s Federal election and how methods can be improved in the future.
The AMSRO Polling Inquiry Panel, Chaired by Darren Pennay, the founder and immediate past-CEO of one of Australia’s leading social research organisations, the Social Research Centre (SRC), was established and terms of reference were agreed last June. AMSRO invited pollsters, media organisations and others who commission election and political polling to contribute to the inquiry.
“There has been no consensus among the polling companies or anyone else regarding ‘what went wrong’ at the last Federal election and the reputation of opinion polling with the Australian public appears to be at a low ebb,” Pennay said.
“Election and political polling have an important place in Australian society, and it is imperative that the broader polling industry takes this opportunity to improve the accuracy and reporting of the polls because it underpins a modern, well-functioning democracy. It’s also important for the credibility of the polling companies, as well as the wider market and social research industry, that the public has confidence in the results of the major polls.
“We have chosen to release this Discussion Paper now, ahead of the Inquiry’s main report scheduled for October, in order to maximise the time available for AMSRO, the polling industry and other stakeholders to consider and take action on these initial recommendations before the next federal election polling cycle. The focus of this report is the transparency and disclosure standards as they apply to publicly released election and other political polls in Australia.”
The key recommendation from the report is that a new and comprehensive minimum set of disclosure standards be adopted. The report lists 23 proposed standards, including some based on existing International Standard Organisation (ISO) and Australian Press Council (APC) standards and guidelines, as well as new recommendations.
“It’s our view that the current disclosure standards as they apply to publicly released election and other political polls in Australia are inadequate. Australian pollsters have less rigorous disclosure obligations than pollsters in the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand,” Pennay said.
“The majority of polling companies in Australia remain unregulated and there are no mandated standards set by government or others. It is the view of the Inquiry Panel that this needs to be rectified to ensure the most transparent and accurate polling practices are adopted and to restore public faith in election and political polling. We now look forward to active participation and responses from the polling companies and other stakeholders.”
The Inquiry Panel also recommends that any entity established to mandate and regulate election polling standards should include a committee with industry, media and academic representatives (for example, political scientists), in addition to the polling companies themselves. The chair of any such committee should be someone who is independent from current polling organisations.
AMSRO Board member, Craig Young, said: “AMSRO welcomes this Discussion Paper from the Inquiry Panel and looks forward to the full report being released in October. We believe greater transparency and disclosure regarding how the published polls are conducted is critical to re-establishing public confidence in polling.
“As the research industry association, AMSRO is also supportive of extending these disclosure standards to all published market research, not just polling. We look forward to working with the polling companies and other important stakeholders to discuss the creation and oversight of appropriate standards to bring about these much needed changes.”
The Discussion Paper examines:
The Discussion Paper is released today for consultation with interested parties and the public, and submissions close on 12 June 2020.
The Discussion Paper and further information on the AMSRO Polling Inquiry can be found at: https://www.amsro.com.au/amsro-polling-inquiry/.
The Inquiry Panel’s Final Report is scheduled for release in October.
Notes for editors:
The Inquiry Panel is:
The Advisory Board comprises: